Making Bellevue a Better Place

Bellevue Exchange Club focused on child abuse prevention, youth activities, community events and Patriotism

Two Tuesdays a month, you can find John Cooper leading a morning meeting for the volunteers of the Bellevue Exchange Club. He starts each meeting by addressing the group of civic-minded members with the same message. “This is the best way to start your day,” he says.

Cooper became the local non-profit’s president in 2023. He calls the organization an ‘escape’ from the everyday, mundane routine we so often find ourselves in.

“The Bellevue Exchange Club has really opened the door to giving back and being a part of the community, being in the know, and making life so much more,” Cooper says. “I want people to know that a group like this exists in Bellevue.”

The group’s volunteers are on a mission to change lives, focusing their efforts on four pillars: the prevention of child abuse and neglect, Americanism and Patriotism, youth activities and community events.

Cooper says the organization financially supports local organizations dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect, such as the Family Center in Nashville.

The organization is committed to serving youth in the community, whether it be chartering the local Boy Scouts Troop, paying for a storage unit for Nashville Foster Love Closet, which supports children in foster care, or creating a basketball tournament to raise money for James Lawson High School.

Cooper says the group sponsors a youth of the month from area high schools who have excelled in school and extracurriculars. They then compete for a variety of scholarships by writing essays, including a national $15,000 scholarship.

Jim Dyes, the group’s former president, has been active with the club since 2018. Dyes wants community members to understand the group’s focus on the next generation.

“We want the next generation to learn the importance of serving their community, of pouring into others,” Dyes says. “Communities don’t happen unless people engage.”

Both Cooper and Dyes say the organization provides community members the special, and somewhat rare, opportunity to make the world a better place.

“We have speakers come to every meeting, and it’s always incredibly fascinating to listen to them to speak,” Cooper says.

Some of those speakers have recently included Jacob’s Audible founder Brad Meshell, Early College High School Assistant Principal Nikki Healy, and One Bellevue Place Regional General Manager Gordon Conaway.

Along with its child abuse prevention pillar, the group practices and encourages Patriotism by serving breakfast to Veterans on Veterans Day and displaying American flags along Interstate 70 for holidays such as Presidents Day and Labor Day.

“We also recognize our public servants as well by celebrating police officer, EMT, firefighter, and 911 operator of the year,” Dyes says.

When reflecting on his time with the Exchange Club, Dyes says the 20th anniversary of the September 11 remembrance event at Red Caboose Park will always hold a special place in his heart.

“It took a lot of work to put it on, but it really had a broad reach. We had the mayor and other elected officials as well as local first responders,” Dyes says. “Bellevue can sometimes feel overlooked in Nashville, but I think that event was a wonderful way to bring people together and honor those who lost their lives during September 11.”

The group’s efforts don’t stop there. They are also responsible for several community projects to beautify Bellevue, including several art murals and funding the BELL Garden on the Bellevue Middle School campus.

The organization currently has about 40 members, ranging in age from 30s to 80s. While most live in Bellevue, it’s not a requirement. Dyes and Cooper hope to continue to spread awareness about the club to attract more people who want to make Bellevue an even better place to live.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the group can drop into one of its meetings on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 7:30 a.m. at the Bellevue Community Center.

In a world of technology and a greater need for human interaction than ever before, Cooper says the Exchange Club is the perfect chance to get involved in the community. For anyone looking for a little more out of life, the Bellevue Exchange Club’s doors are wide open.

“You come out of that meeting, and you feel like, 'wow, we are really making a difference,'” Cooper says. “The second you realize life isn’t about yourself, is the second that the world really opens up, and this organization is a great place for that.”

“We want the next generation to learn the importance of serving their community, of pouring into others.”

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